Fernando Alonso ensured that Ferrari featured in the mix of potential pole position winners by topping the third and final free practice session ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Spaniard, making his race debut for the Scuderia, posted the fastest lap of the weekend - and the fastest on the new, extended BIC layout - by clocking 1min 54.099secs on the softer Bridgestone tyres late in the one hour session, taking top spot by nearly three-tenths after Friday pacesetter Nico Rosberg failed to better the Ferrari's time on his final run in the hour-long session.

Rosberg kept the upper-hand in the high-profile Mercedes line-up after again bettering Michael Schumacher, although the pair were more closely-matched as the seven-time world champion posted the fourth-best mark, less than a couple of tenths behind his countryman. Between the two silver arrows, meanwhile, Mark Webber gave another hint as to the potential pace of the new Red Bull, backed up by Sebastian Vettel in fifth spot.

The top seven drivers all lapped within a second of Alonso's pace, with Felipe Massa and world champion Jenson Button chasing Vettel, while Robert Kubica, Tonio Liuzzi and Nico Hulkenberg ensured that Renault, Force India and Williams featured in the top ten. Immediately behind them, FP1 pacesetter Adrian Sutil headed friend and rival Lewis Hamilton in eleventh and twelfth, although the Briton was denied a chance to complete the second half of the session - and, with it, the chance to do a qualifying simulation - after a brake duct problem caused his left front wheel hub to fail.

There were also issues for Timo Glock, who lost the left front wheel from his Virgin VR-01 early in the session - the result of the team's airguns not being 'torqued' sufficiently to correctly tighten any of his wheels - and the luckless Karun Chandhok, who saw his Hispania car fire up on time, only to lose the hydraulic pressure it needed to select first gear. As a result, the Indian again failed to complete a lap, and faces the prospect of being excluded from qualifying.

HRT team-mate Bruno Senna completed eleven laps, but was still nearly three seconds off the pace of Jarno Trulli's Lotus, which ended the session immediately ahead of him.Trulli narrowly missed breaking the two-minute barrier, but team-mate Heikki Kovalainen - and Glock - both achieved the feat to remain within five seconds off Alonso.

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